Shamanic Healing with Michael Harner of the Foundation of Shamanic Studies
I’ve been reading Harner’s articles on shamanism.org and I think he has some good insights. But I’m also suspicious of any organization that tries to sell shamanism with “workshops.” Granted, the Foundation is nonprofit and a lot of the money it makes is going to research and preservation of indigenous shamanism, which is wonderful! But I don’t think anyone can become a shaman after a few weekends of training, especially from people who got their knowledge second hand. It just seems so hubristic to me for a Westerner, especially a white Westerner, to call themselves a shaman unless they’ve trained for years under a traditional shaman. Even those with real training always bring their own cultural lens to the table.
It’s not the whiteness that makes me uncomfortable with white Western shamans. It’s the cultural ignorance that all-to-often is the companion of white privilege. Michael Harner is very well-read and well-experienced and a lot of his synthesis of indigenous shamanistic beliefs are syntheses that I’ve made myself in studying them. But to some extent I am uncomfortable with the way he thinks it’s okay to combine Siberian, South American, and Australian shamanism/traditional medicine completely stripped of context. It’s all very well and good for him to do this for himself, because he’s paring traditions down to “things that work” for him personally. But it’s misleading for the vast majority of the people he “trains” who do not have PhDs in anthropology, who have never experienced a culture other than their own, and will probably hang onto his every word as if it is absolute truth.
I’ve only recently become comfortable with referring to myself as a shaman and it’s because I was apprehensive of (right minded) backlash from people of indigenous cultures. I was raised in Oklahoma and I’ve been an odd kid since birth. I found my way to this train of thought through many different signs and persons, but most notably when I was out working on this farm and my mother threw a datura pod at me. the thorn apple pierced me and I bled and that’s when, as she was apologizing, my mother told me that the plant was hallucinogenic. this lead me to the books written by carlos castaneda. I ate them up. looking back I understand that the works are stylized and exaggerated, but the message remains the same: we are not operating at our maximum capacity, we can do much more than we have been lead to think, if you hear the call you must depart. when I was diagnosed as schizophrenic I was in the midst of a horrific “delusional state.” during that time I received a fair amount of teaching from the world at large and I came to understand that this was my lot. after I recovered I delved into dmt and through that received a vision where I was instructed by four nameless entities these words “Bring something back for your brethren to learn from. Do not name us.” It is because of these experiences and much thought that I am confident in using the term “shaman” to describe what I am (and always will be) in training for. I have never had a physical, human teacher. I have learned what I can from books, but I maintain that listening to your ancestors as they reveal themselves and the plants and animals as they begin to speak to you is the best way to learn in the absence of a human teacher. As for the bunching of various cultures into the conglomerate, marketable “western shamanism” the way I see it is this: yes, this does take away from the original teachings, but in a way it serves to preserve those individual cultures as well. by presenting what has been deduced to be “convergent shamanism” from parts around the globe people raised in a western society are much more able to understand that this is a functional, practical practice that works as a part of reality the world over, not just in these isolated groups of people.
another issue is this: what of those born into western society who are labeled “sick” and never find their way to the path? are they to deny what information is available to them on the basis of racial/appropriative discrepancies or should they take what they can find with many grains of salt in-between to create at least a platform to work from? it’s a complicated issue, but when you’ve got people from all races born into this mindset combined with a convergent knowledge base it really does ring of a species-wide calling.
Thank you so much for your response.
I get what you’re saying, about the species-wide calling. Even though cultural misappropriation is definitely an issue, I don’t think soul-based healing should be restricted to certain groups. And I definitely agree that periods of mental illness, though they can be highly disruptive in a person’s life, can also grant them other ways of seeing.
But do we have to call ourselves shamans?
In my readings on shamanism, a big thing that stuck out to me is the importance of the group. You need a mentor, not just so you can learn the ways of a particular tradition, but so that someone can help you develop your power. Because shamanism isn’t just about receiving messages from a spiritworld. It’s about developing power and using that power to practice healing or other services. Traditional shamans don’t just go out into the woods or taiga or whatever and do random rituals by themselves for their own spiritual edification. They practice their craft in a group setting, for the benefit of other people.
So when I see Westerners adopting “shaman” as an identity, I get uncomfortable. “Shaman” isn’t just a spiritual orientation, it’s an occupation. Although a lot of self-described technoshamans or neoshamans use drugs to try and contact a spiritworld… to me, even if they are developing power, they aren’t using it for anything. They are being, not doing. Therefore they are not shamans.
I certainly don’t have authority to decide what is and isn’t shamanism and you can feel free to disagree with me… But the fact is that most Westerners don’t have the resources, as you say, to follow a traditional shamanic path. So why call ourselves shamans when the word doesn’t belong to us and doesn’t describe what we’re doing?
“Shaman” isn’t just a spiritual orientation, it’s an occupation.
You said better than I what I was attempting to explain by calling it a practical, functioning practice.I understand your discontent over people claiming it as an option under the ‘what religion are you’ question…ech. But, what exactly is the root of the name Shaman? It’s siberian. It is definitely appropriation, but the term has been used for so long from an anthropological standpoint that it’s a solid blanket term for X people’s spiritual/medicinal healer/wanderer. Should WE call OURSELVES shaman, though? I don’t know. I think if you’re legitimately aspiring to become a healer/traveler then the title is there to describe yourself with to those who know the word. It is not a mantle or a position of honor until someone calls you out as shaman, as I’ve understood it, and pretty much the only person who would know to do that in a western society would be your prospective mentor.
I know, now, that I do have a group to practice with. my ancestors. and until I have been instructed in gathering a ‘coven’ or what-have-you (please don’t let the witches find this) I’m going to continue to practice on my own and respond to those in need as they find me. I know I will receive a teacher in a physical, human form at some point. We just haven’t found each other yet. Or, maybe they have found me and I’m just not ready yet. Either way, I will keep practicing as it is revealed to me to do so.
On the topic of hallucinogens for power, there is a horrific amount of it within those beings. I travel with purpose, now. When I first began messing around with Mizz Datura I didn’t know what I was looking for, I just wanted to see things, which is pretty much seeking power. She tore me a new one, but she did teach me. That’s one of the big messages that Mescalito got across to Carlos Castaneda, some plants are very powerful beings which have specific faces, and some are very powerful tools which have specific purposes. What I’ve come to understand for myself, in the past year, is that you only go to a teacher who is inside a plant when you have a serious question and need a serious answer. You only use a tool inside a plant when a dire need presents itself.
Perhaps ‘sorcerer’ is the word you’re looking for to describe those who are purely seeking power for power’s sake. I’ve understood the common association for shaman as ‘healer.’ Either way, if you find something else to call what we’re going at that other people will understand, you let me know.
if music’s already this beautiful language, seeking attainment with our ever present arrangement
what is this noise?
I AM SORRY BUT THIS IS WHY I AM EMBARRASSED TO BE AN AMERICAN. IF A HIJAB THAT DORNS THE AMERICAN FLAG PATTERN IS NOT ACCEPTABLE BUT SKIMPY ASS BIKINIS OR WEARING THE FUCKING ACTUAL FLAG IS ACCEPTABLE, JUST BECAUSE THE PERSON IS WHITE, I WANT TO FUCKING THROW UP.
(I don’t have a thing against Audrey Kitching, she was just merely and example).
But this fucking disgusts me right here. It makes me want to say, fuck this country and its racism and double standards.
also notice how these people are calling her a terrorist even though she didn’t do anything wrong
but they are threatening to kill, beat, steal from, and degrade this woman for simply wearing an article of clothing
Urrrrrhg people are rfdhyuij
So much rage at 8 in the morning.
for a badass noface costume.
IM CALLING THE POLICE
the “don’t tread on me” snake should totes be a dong
Members of Congress are living off food stamps for a week to protest Republican cuts. It’s a challenge for them, but GOP cuts would hurt millions of everyday Americans.
Why does this not have more publicity. This needs it!
Signal boosting this A) because it deserves to be seen by more people, and b) because I appreciate some members of Congress are actually willing to see what it’s like living on food stamps in order to make their point about how horrifying cutting food stamps would be.
News flash, regressives: people on food stamps do not load up on Snickers bars and filet mignon. They’re limited in what they can buy, and oftentimes, it’s not enough to get by on. Go on thinking these are entitlements that let minorities live lives of luxury, comfortable in the knowledge that you’ll never go hungry.
You privileged, elitist pricks.
let me just add a few more… ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Witness the Rise of an American Legend. The Lone Ranger rides into theaters July 3rd.
what in the fuck are you doing depp, just stop
this is fucking horrific.
not scary horrific, horrifically insulting.
Together, me, my dad, and my grandpa all got our suffix tattooed on us. Phillip Warren Kary I, II, and III. Though each of us are different in our own ways, in the end we are all the same. United under one family, and one name.
Done at Sky images, in Muskegon Michigan
this right here is righteous.